Transgender criminals to get say over prison
The starting point should be what gender an inmate identifies as, draft guidelines say
Transgender criminals will be able to serve their sentences in either male or female prisons under official guidance drawn up by ministers.
The new policy follows the apparent suicides last year of two transgender inmates who were sent to male prisons.
Prison staff will be told to ensure that transgender inmates can obtain beauty products and other items that they require to live as their chosen gender. The move follows complaints that hair dye and make-up were not available in a male jail.
Now boys can wear skirts to class as schools introduce ‘gender neutral’ uniforms in a new drive to be sensitive to ‘trans’ children
Eighty state schools, including 40 primaries, have rewritten uniform policy
Government-funded drive for schools to have transgender-friendly uniform
Allens Croft School in Birmingham believed to be first primary to change
Brighton College, an independent school, adopted policy earlier this year
Scores of schools have adopted ‘gender-neutral’ uniform policies that allow boys to wear skirts.
Around 40 state secondary and 40 state primary schools have changed their dress rules in a drive to be more sensitive to transgender pupils.
They have either dropped references to girls and boys, or have altered them to say pupils can dress in the uniform in which they feel most comfortable. It will mean children as young as five will be able to ‘come out’ as trans without breaking uniform rules.
Diversity campaigners have warned schools that current policies risk discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pupils. However, Christian groups fear that introducing a choice of uniform could confuse youngsters.
Allens Croft School in Birmingham is believed to be the first state primary to declare it has a ‘gender neutral’ uniform.
Its rules state that boys can wear a grey or black skirt or pinafore while girls can wear grey or black trousers. It says it aims ‘to promote each child’s right to express their gender and personality in whichever way feels right for them’.
Head Paula Weaver said there were pupils who do not dress along traditional gender lines. The primary is designated a ‘best practice school’ by the charity Educate and Celebrate, which has received £200,000 from the Department for Education to give diversity training to schools.
Mrs Weaver told The Sunday Times: ‘Everybody has the right to be themselves – that was the impetus for it. We do lots of work through literature and drama and we talk to children about the fact we have someone who was assigned male at birth who is saying ‘I’m a girl’. It’s about being open with them and about everyone feeling OK.’
The last prejudice | UK | News | The Independent
The parliamentary report on transgender rights has many recommendations which should be adopted immediately
Steadily, the cause of transgender people gains ground. As with all civil rights battles, the start was from a distressing low: the aristocrat Michael Dillon was the first British citizen to have gender-reassignment surgery in 1945. “When the mind cannot be made to fit the body, the body should be made to fit, approximately at any rate, the mind,” he wrote after the surgery. It cannot be put much simpler, or any legitimate objection be raised. But attitudes at the time were uniformly harsh: Mr Dillon’s family rejected him, the press whipped up a storm, and he fled to India, where he died at the age of 47.
That there has been progress since Mr Dillon’s era – much of it coming within the past decade – should be recognised and celebrated. David Bowie broke precious ground in the 1970s but it has taken time for the use of androgyny as a tool to shock to be replaced by a desire to present gender fluidity as something rather more run-of-the-mill.
Today the US TV series Transparent deftly explores what it’s like to be a transgender parent; stars like Caitlyn Jenner and Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox have – for millions – put a face to an unfamiliar concept. The media, though far from perfect, is now broadly supportive of those who decide to transition, as was shown last year in the case of former boxing promoter Kellie Maloney.
Where television and celebrity leads, society will often follow. But away from the red carpet, life for the average transgender, or genderqueer person – that is, someone who does not feel themselves to fit either category of male or female – remains beset by hardship. Transgender citizens are vastly more likely to self-harm; in one of the largest European surveys, 84 per cent said they had considered suicide, and 48 per cent attempted it.
Cultural change takes time, but sensible policymaking can get in front of it, and serve as a propeller. It is to that end that the Women and Equalities Commission has launched the first parliamentary report on transgender rights in the UK. There remains, as the report makes clear, “a long way to go”.
But many of its recommendations could be adopted forthwith. Only fear could lead someone to protest against the call for police to undergo training in how to deal with hate crimes against transgender people, or for the NHS to reform itself to become more easily navigable for them, or for it to be made simpler to change the sex status on one’s passport. Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Norway have all moved to – or have promised to move to – a system that lets individuals select the gender that appears on official documentation, without a doctor’s note. Needless to say, this has made thousands of people’s lives easier, and nobody’s harder – an easy victory for human rights, common sense and liberalism.
The path, however, does not run entirely smooth. The report calls for “clarification” on the right of transgender convicts to choose whether they stay in male or female prisons. It is absolutely right, where there is no risk to other inmates, to allow free choice. The suicides of two transgender women sent to male prisons shortly before Christmas speak to the risks of not respecting such wishes. But each case must be taken individually: Davina Ayrton, convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl and yet to undergo any form of hormonal or surgical treatment, was last week remanded to a male prison. That is an appropriate decision.
On matters of identity, wherever granting the wishes of individuals does – or threatens – no harm, governments should comply. They should similarly be proactive in preventing discrimination against minorities. These observations are as obvious as Mr Dillon’s, but the case must be made, and their implementation closely observed, over and over, until a man like Mr Dillon faces as little unnecessary trauma as there can be.